Success Story: Emotional Context Learning — Using Phrases Correctly Without Actively Learning Them Or Knowing What They Actually Mean

This entry is part of 13 in the series Secrets of Speaking

AJATTeer Jake C shares this little story of how he learned how to use certain Japanese words and phrases before he knew what they actually  (literally) meant, because he was aware of their emotional content. I have had similar experiences myself in both Cantonese and Japanese, but didn’t have a  name for the phenomenon. Now, thanks to Jake, I do (“emotional context learning”, he calls it). It’s definitely one of the benefits of an immersion environment (one primarily based on FUNBUN 1 media) as opposed to a classroom one — you learn stuff without even trying, at an almost physical, muscular level. Anyway, here’s Jake’s little story:

I feel as though I’ve hit on something no one else has considered before. It’s something I noticed in my own learning. I realized that humans aren’t actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we… are the cure. When filled with a certain kind of emotion, attitude or mindset, I noticed that entire phrases of Japanese would jump into my head that I had never previously studied or reviewed. They must have stuck due to me comprehending their emotional context.

「一体誰の仕業なのか?」 2 came into my head in response to me actually holding that kind of emotion towards someone (a coworker). My mind had latched onto it through comprehending its emotional context, though I had never formally studied it before.

I’ve been repeating aloud the things I hear in the news or in anime while acting out the emotion or mindset the idea was conveyed with, and it seems to be super effective. Even conveying dry information still holds a degree of emotional context that can be acted out.

I personally think this is a fairly unique and cool way to engage in language learning: acting out (and thereby comprehending) the emotional content of the sentence, even if you don’t fully understand the words. I found out later what 「仕業」 meant, but I actually used the phrase before I even knew what it meant, which I find very weird and cool. I knew the emotional content before I knew its specific, literal meaning.

 

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Notes:

  1. For native, by native
  2. いったいだれのしわざなのか=Which IDIOT did this s###?

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  6 comments for “Success Story: Emotional Context Learning — Using Phrases Correctly Without Actively Learning Them Or Knowing What They Actually Mean

  1. ミル
    December 9, 2012 at 06:47

    “I found out later what 「仕業」 meant, but I actually used the phrase before I even knew what it meant, which I find very weird and cool. I knew the emotional content before I knew its specific, literal meaning.”

    Isn’t this how we learn our main language?^_^

    Also..

    I actually started to go ALL jap, and no subs when I watch stuff now. I found that subs are 100% useless. All I did was spend time improving my ability to read “English” or my “L1 language”. Even when I do sit back and just try to watch.. the subs are still “present”, they still exist in front of you in the “now”.. so they became a distraction and I got rid of that… (of course subs are fine here and there w/ anime… but with TV shows, I go all raw..)

    I now noticed what this guy has started to notice, emotion was latching onto words and I’m already picking up words here and there easier. I even repeat phrases that carry emotion now, and in fact…. isn’t language nothing but emotion? People have spent so much time in front of computers and txt msging, normal text can only go so far ya know.

    So I now think (thanks to this article for the push), that the best and only efficient way to learn(once you get to a certain point), is by putting the emotion into that word…. That’s the reason that word you’re learning, means what it means, no? I also noticed that when I read, I can dimly hear the voice of some jap guy from a movie or something…

    Good post khantz(とまり・・・thanks for choosing this guy to make a post out of:P)

  2. agentxjp
    December 9, 2012 at 18:01

    [quote]I realized that humans aren’t actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we… are the cure.[/quote]

    Oh you Khatz.

  3. 安藤
    December 10, 2012 at 06:43

    I’ve had similar experiences! One time, early on in my immersioning, I yelled at my cat, saying 「おい、なーにやってんだ、お前」, despite having not actively noticed hearing that before and having never learned やる. I got so caught off guard by that that I went and looked it up and… sure enough. It was exactly what I wanted. Really cool that this happens, eh? 🙂

    • 魔法少女☆かなたん
      December 16, 2012 at 11:21

      LOL! I started saying stuff like that too.

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